Saturday, 11 May 2024 09:27

Faraday 1: Caged (part 2)

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A Whateley Gen 2 what if

Caged

PART 1

By Sieri

 

Wednesday morning, November 23, 2016

In a ball in front of the desk in the CAGE

I breathed heavily. Hax. I didn’t expect Hax and Beat. The guy I was just melting over, and the witch that kidnapped me. I was crying. The world was collapsing, that short phone call was still running in loop, that voice piercing my ears. I couldn’t move at all, so I tried to tell ANODE to shut it down. I could open my mouth, but no sound could get out. When I tried my lungs would freeze, my breath would stop. It continued, every rough syllable in her voice would send itself straight into my back, as a tingle of fear. I saw her face in front of me.

 

“Sha! Do you hear me” I heard someone calling me. But again it felt like my voice box was stuck. “Sha are you okay?.”

I couldn't react. I felt a hand grab my arm. I jerked it away, turning my head at the same time. I don't know why this time my muscles were moving. I saw Sophie being thrown to the ceiling in a fast rotation. Hit it hard and just hang there after.

 

This pulled me out of my current stay and I managed to yell, “no! ANODE emergency shutdown!” The power went out. All the light was now provided by emergency phosphorescent strips on the wall. Normally I alway felt a very slight buzz from the lamps, despite them being shielded and driven with rectified smoothed power. But now, between them shutting down and the infernal noise of the phone call stopping, my brain felt able to absorb my environment again.

 

Sophie was just floating above me, holding out her arm. “It hurts, aw.” She yelled out. I still didn’t know what to say, but I could control my movements again. I sat on the floor and started to whip my tears, took a few deep breaths and muttered, a low wobbly “sorry”.

 

I felt myself getting lighter, lifting from the ground. “It’s okay.” Sophie whispered, “You were in pain. Your shielding failed?” I was now floating to my friend’s level. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t really say the pain was all emotional. I just repeated my “sorry”.

 

“Mrs. Bardue told me you didn’t show up at your first class today, and weren’t answering calls.”

 

“ANODE bugged out” I said, “I think I messed up the yielding procedure in the threading code and then launched a computational heavy background task that overflowed the event queue. So any call would never be forwarded to me not that I was myself in a state to answer them” 

 

Sophie giggled softly. “Nice you’re back. I’d help you recover but my class starts soon, and I need to go to Doyle before because you really threw me hard.”

 

“Sorry” I repeated again. “Of course go, can you deal with putting the power back on? I really don’t want to spend time in the dark without contact with the outside.”

 

“Of course you’ll need it to go to class.”

 

“I’m not going today. Something came up. I’m not sure what to do about it.” Tears came back to me, now they weren’t falling anymore, just pooling on my eyes due to the lack of gravity. 

 

“You’re sure you don’t want me to stay?” Sophie said, “I can just come back right after Doyle, through the tunnel it’s quick.”

 

“No, it’s okay I think I need to call someone. From home. There’s stuff I’ve not told you.” 

 

“We’ve known each other a week, of course you haven’t.” She pushed herself from the wall, to grab in a nice warm hug, but wincing a bit, probably from the pain.  “Wishing you good luck.” While still hugging me she slowly moved us back to the ground, making us subject to gravity again. “I really need to go now, sorry.”

 

Before I got the time to react to what she just did, she was gone. And the power went back on. Once ANODE booted I sent a message to all my teachers of the day saying I need to deal with an issue. 

 

I then started to think about how to contact Bärnerbär. He gave me a card with a number to call if I got any sign of Göldi being on my tail. But I felt weird calling someone who knew me by my old name. But well it was the only person I could trust with that. I also thought of calling Dr. Bellows for advice. But I didn’t know if he wouldn’t be obligated to tell that I listened in on another student. Maybe the staff wouldn’t approve. 

 

Other things that made me weary. I just tapped phone calls quite easily. But I managed to talk myself into it. Mostly by justifying that Göldi really seemed to have needed me for code breaking so they likely can’t get my phone call. Anyway I made the call. I didn’t expect to be greeted with an automated voice asking me to choose a language and press a button. I had forgotten to setup an interface to press number buttons during calls. I just kept waiting. Eventually an operator came in: “Extra Natürlish Eingriff Bundesgruppe. Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen?”

“Bonjour, j’ai besoin de parler à Bärnerbär.”

 

«I’m afraid it’s not part of our official policy. Who is asking» The operator switched to french with a strong federal accent. 

 

«This is Faraday, he asked me personally to contact him. It’s quite important»

 

«Okay, yes I have a note here about letting you through. One moment please.»

 

I waited only a few minutes before hearing artifacts on the line. I think it might be switching to a more secure VoIP line. Just after I heard the bear's distinctive baritone.

 

«Shanon?»

 

I froze for a second, but just replied.

 

«How, how do you know?» 

 

«We have contacts at Whateley. We made sure you were okay. Why are you calling?»

 

«I uhm I was at an event with other students from Europe. And I met this student from Switzerland.

Well anyway I uhm launched a program to scan phone calls.»

 

«You shouldn’t, that’s illegal, and could land you in a heap of troubles.»

 

«Please let me finish. I heard the student from yesterday, calling Hax Mami.» 

 

«Oh» Bärnerbär tone wasn’t very decipherable. «Thanks for notifying us. I will need you to get close to that boy.»

 

«Shouldn’t I avoid him? Could be dangerous! I’m scared. What if they find me.»

 

«You're in Whateley, not even iconoclasts like Göldi would dare act there.»

 

«What about my family though?»

 

«They didn't act on this front yet, I really doubt they would ever do it.» The hero tried to reassure me. «Your fatherland needs you.»

Wednesday evening

M2, Lausanne

Automated doors closed, the heroine stayed standing up in the automatic vehicle. As it started moving a few people got surprised by the sudden climb. But not her, her stance was solid, perfectly compensating the movement. That steadiness on her feets contrasted with the doubts in her mind. She wasn’t actually breaking any specific order, but this wasn’t a sanctioned action. She could expose herself to disciplinary action. Her heart still lead her to know it’s the right thing to do.

 

She also felt weird being in a public place. Since she started her mission and did the cover of the Illurstré she never felt comfortable back in the public. A secret identity could have helped those feelings but she was not one to hide. And blue skin makes hiding unpractical. At least today she was wearing civilian clothes.

 

She was lost in her thought, still considering not following through, the dancers on the announcement system told her she was at her destination. She left the metro, and made her way to the target flat. It was just down the corner street from the plaza, they lived in a building on top of a restaurant. There wasn’t an interphone so she just went on to the third floor and rang the door.

 

A young man opened the door. 

«Hello, is the whole family present?» The heroine asked.

 

He looked her over, before exclaiming «You’re Naïade! Do you have news about Éric?!»

 

«Not outside, may I come in.»

 

«Yes please, come in» He let her in, before calling out, «Mom, Dad, Someone’s here about Éric!»

 

«Oh, is he here? He’s not here isn’t he. Oh no, something terrible has to have happened.» The mother of the missing boy said in panic while the heroine was shown the way of the living room.

 

«He’s fine, he’s alive and safe. But the situation is a bit complicated.» The heroine forced herself to choose her words carefully. She wanted to give them time to process everything, while not saying too much using Shannon’s past gender. She hadn’t talked with the newly minted girl since she chose her new name, but it was just a matter of respect for Naïade.

 

«Where is he now?» The father asked, not that anyone else wouldn’t ask that.

 

«Safe as I said. Out of reach of the kidnappers.»

 

«So he was kidnapped, the police weren't sure» The father interrupted again.

 

«Yes by a mutant criminal group. Their exact goals I cannot say, but they needed someone to hack banks for them.»

 

«Oh is that a group I’d have heard about.» Briquet, the brother asked.

 

«Not unless you have very unsavory contacts I doubt so» She chuckled slightly at that. «I must reassure you, despite being despicable, they didn’t use violence or force for coercion.»

 

«I don’t think Éric would willingly work for criminals.» The mother protested.

 

«Not willingly indeed, but under the mistaken understanding of fighting criminals. That’s what they said to convince. But better for you to learn about that first hand.»

 

«So we can see him?»

 

«If you accept to follow me to the USA. I’m arranging a visit as soon as this weekend.»

 

«He’s in America?»

 

«In a special school for mutants. The GFIEN sometimes send young mutants that are either very promising, or in danger there.»

 

«And which is the case for my brother»

 

«Sadly both, But I think even if those terrible events never happened, this school might have been the right place» To the look of questions the heroine continued, «Manifesting is not very easy. And there have been two major issues I need to explain to you.»

 

Wednesday, 5 period lab class (Time zones!)

The CAGE

I finally got the courage to go to class after lunch, but I was regretting it. Lab classes while being a remote student are when I felt the most isolated. Everyone would get to be in the room immersed in the gadgets and devices, in the odor of solder flux, sound of motors, of the tools. And I was just out of it, scribbling on my paper. Given the logistics of working in the CAGE I had to be sure of what I was doing before messing with any hardware. 

 

And right now I wasn't progressing. I was working on improving ANODE voice system.

 

I finally resigned myself to calling the professor, I didn't like having to announce that to the whole classroom.

 

“ANODE activate mic” I talk to myself when working so usually disable the microphone. “Professor Lucas, I'm slightly stuck on an issue with my voice interface. Could I ask you for a bit of your time.”

 

“Of course, call me on my phone so we don't bother everyone” he replied, so I did just that. “What's the issue?” he asked once we were connected. 

 

“My input system, to avoid too much EMF radiation, is a piezo element mounted on a metallic film on the wall of the CAGE, and then it goes into a very minimal amplification circuit straight into a DAC. But the sound quality, I don't dare use it. The lib I use with ANODE is very good at understanding what I do but if I give that to people, in a noisy environment or something like that, it's not up to the quality I want to broadcast to the world. I really need to find a way to filter out all the parasitic harmonics, boost the parts attenuated by the setup.”

 

“So long story short you want to clean your microphone signal?” 

 

“Yes but I ran into a lot of issues, I'm trying to dimension the equalizing filter, but such large inductance so close to the CAGE scare me, I know I'll need a lot but I'm not yet sure of the magnitude I'll need, and how possible it would be to shield it all, of course I'm still far from knowing exactly what I “

 

“Wait wait, you're looking into adding an analogue filter?” I was interrupted 

 

“Yes, that's the plan”

 

“Don't, it will be much more complex and much less flexible than doing the whole processing digitally.”

 

“Oh yeah, if I do it digitally I'm not running into space issues of doing the processing where the microphone is, I can simply do it elsewhere. I don't really know how to filter such a signal digitally though.”

 

“Would you be okay if I lent you a book on it? You should look up the chapters on infinite impulse response and finite impulse response filters.”

 

“Oh yes please. I'd love to read that. Paper resources would be such a great help given my situation.”

 

I heard a chuckle, “there are some beautiful books on technology, sadly most students aren't interested in the medium. There's one thing you can work on before catching up. To properly design your filter you need to modelize your microphone system. You need to play known sounds to it you know the characteristic and distortion you receive.”

 

“Ah yeah I was sure that was needed. I could shut the radio on the MARCONI and use it as a speaker. I made it with a speaker with a flat frequency response.”

 

“Your communication gadget could be suitable for that indeed.”

 

“But it would still be quite painful to me even without the radio, maybe I could just get someone who sings or plays music.“ This made me immediately think of Calliope, I know she was a singer, haven’t talked to her much yet, but maybe I could ask her, but that also made me think of her roommate Erica, which lead me to german class, and I realized there was someone in my german class I could ask. 

Wednesday after class

The CAGE 

*Knock Knock* That sounded like a wooden door knocked on, not the metal one of the CAGE. I guess my guest arrived. “Hey, you read the sign?” I asked 

 

“Yes, all electronics in the box” He replied. 

 

I opened the door, and greeted him inside, signing him to hurry. I could already feel the noise getting very annoying. My antennas were more sensitive each passing day.

 

The bunny-eared boy, Saumer, came in, looked at me and the room around, then gave me what might have been an appreciative look, I’m not sure. “This is so far much less scary than the text made it sound”

 

“What do you mean?” I asked.

 

“When a gadgeteer I don’t know told me to come to Hawthorne out of all places. Let's just say it’s not very reassuring. But I’m not one to say no to a free gadget. What is it?”

 

“The gadget, no idea, you can commission me whatever you want. Though I must say I’m still getting setup here, so it may take me a month or two, depending on the complexity.”

 

“Why? Why are you just offering me that? Like I said we don’t know each other”

 

“Well we’re in German class together.”

 

“You’re the text to speech voice that just started!” He realized.

 

“Yep, here in flesh, bone, and metal tracks.” I smiled, I was gonna continue but he started to talk before I could.

 

“I must say I’m not a fan of your voice in class. it’s cold and harsh in text to speech.” He commented.

 

“That’s what we’re trying to fix. I need your talent with sound to fix my microphone.” I explained to him what I needed, and it seems I went overboard with the explanation of the mathematical nature of the filtering but he seemed to have been interested in the concept of my work. I think working with sound resonated with him. I’m expecting to work on something sound based in the future for his commission.

 

I was taking too much time, he had told me he would leave school that evening, so I had him grab the MARCONI outside and listen to a few sounds for me. Once he was back he exclaimed. “I understand the process but those sounds aren’t the tastiest, they are a bit basic.”

 

“Basic is good, to calibrate. Your playback really is as perfect as you said?”

 

“Yep! Now let’s do this. Your room might not be the worst but Hawthorne still creeps me out a bit.” He gave me a nervous smile. I started recording the recording session through ANODE and gave him a thumbs up. He started by doing a 5 kHz tone followed by a slow sweep from 1Hz to 22kHz. 

 

“There's one thing I'm happy about, it's that I rarely get to make such high notes.” he said with a grin.

 

“I doubt my microphone can pick up the higher range well, and I certainly don’t use them when I speak. As I explained earlier the ADC I use follows the cd sampling rate among other things so it was sampling at 44.1kHz and so according to Shannon I can reconstruct up to that half that frequency without an issue. That's of course the other Shannon. You might realize I was not at a precise half but that's because I wanted to end my test at a nice round number. I think the microphone's poor performance should filter everything above so I don't expect aliasing issues.” He was just nodding along, with a grin that indicated not much going on behind the ears right now.

 

“Let’s do the second sample” I said, to move things along, the second sample was a bit less structured, random very short pulses at different frequencies, basically a way for me to get dynamic information on the system, while the sweep gave me static information. There was one last that was just spoken words I downloaded online from someone whose timber seemed to me to match my new one. This was just so I had a file I knew the characteristics to compare automatically.

 

“Thanks, that wraps things up. I could have made it without you, but it would have been painful.” *Knock Knock* This time it was the metallic knock of my door. “Yeah I’m in, who is it?” I wasn’t expecting anyone and Sophie doesn’t knock like that. 

 

“Füürlifuuscht, is this Sha?”

 

“Oh non, qu’est ce qu’il fout là, je suis pas prête, I’m not ready eeee, can’t send him away. Okay Sha be cool” I whispered to myself, before realizing that Saumer was staring at me. I had no choice but to try and play it cool. Bärnerbär counted on me to bring justice to the ones that kidnapped me. It was not going to be easy. I opened the door, didn’t look at Beat just yet, and just gestured to Saumer that he needed to get out. “Contact me for your gadget. Thanks”

 

He gave me an odd look but didn’t say anything about my outburst. “Thanks, I’ll think about what to ask.” 

 

I turned roughly in the direction of Beat, but not meeting his face with my eyes. “Come, come in.”

 

I just got in and went to sit at my desk, this meant I was staring at the wall, and not him. “I have work to do so I’m sorry if I’m not the best host today.” I grabbed my notepad and started doodling random circuits.

 

“I’m sorry, it’s just after yesterday, I wanted to meet you again. I can go if I’m not welcome.” 

 

 “Non!” I yelled, before I realized. I immediately put my right hand in front of my mouth, both fists clenched. 

 

“Okay, you’re sure everythings alright” He seemed genuine, he cared, I thought I might melt.

 

I sighed, “I’m sorry, it’s just my mouth is faster than my senses sometimes.” 

 

“I find it cute.” I’m pretty sure this made my skin match the hue of the copper tracks next to it. “What are you working on? Giving away your work already?”

 

“I’m fixing my mic, so I can connect better to the outside. I needed help with sounds.” I explained.

 

“Guet, and you pay with stuff you invent. Maybe I’ll need to help you.” he finished that sentence with a slight shuckle. I couldn’t hold the giggle back.

 

“If I need anything heated up I’ll be sure to ask you.” I said.

 

“Hey, I have other talents! I don’t know what you need.” 

 

“Not much right now.” I said, while thinking: your mother to definitely leave me alone and to be sure of that. “I’m just getting settled here.” 

 

“I’m guessing, This is a strange place. And it’s not easy being that far from home.”

 

“Ouais, it’s been hard. I miss them so much. It’s been so long. I’ve not talked with them since manifesting” I said.

 

“Oh that terrible, is that due to your microphone situation?”

 

“Huhun” I noncommittally acquiesced. It was only the third and by far most minor reason I had. But he didn’t need to know the main ones. “Manifesting and the way here was a terrible experience.”

 

“I won’t push you on that then. Mine was quite eventful too, I’m a bit of a rager. My spirit is always angry, I should warn you about it.” 

 

“You’ve alluded to that. You seem quite peaceful and kind to me so far.”  

 

“I always was before, but becoming an avatar for a spirit of wrath, that kind of changed things. School back home wasn’t very easy. Some people didn’t take well that my parents were mutants, and mocked me for years. And when I showed the first signs of manifesting they kinda ramped up the harassment.” 

 

“Hate those kinds of people.” 

 

“Same, and I blew up. The first time my fists burst into flames was when a group were bullying me for it. I put one of them into the hospital.” I could hear his voice hang out a bit on those worlds. “I regret it so much. He was än Arschloch, but he didn’t deserve all this.”

 

“That’s kinda scary.” I interjected, “But I guess for you it must have been too.”

 

“Terrifying, not on the moment, then it was just a fantastic release of so much anger. But when I calmed down, it’s like I wasn’t in control. I’ve tried to tame that fire ever since.”

 

“Would you say you managed?” I turned my head to see his answer, I felt it would be important for my safety.

 

“Yeah it was a struggle, it’s still in process, I brawl quite a bit to relieve the heat.” He seemed calm, and damn he was cute. I lowered my guards and stopped multitasking on schematics and just turned to chat fully.

 

“Of course I got expelled from school on the day. The MCO was not happy about that either. It’s why I’m here, to lay low and get full control of Turnaz, my spirit”

 

“I also got expelled from school due to manifesting.”

 

“Wait really?” He said with a spark in his eye. It was like embers. “Why?”

 

“I was in an electronics school.” I sighed.

 

“And you’re a gadgeteer.” He said in understanding. “This decision on devisors and gadgeteers makes me so angry.” his eyes were glowing brighter. But he soon closed them and took a few deep breaths. And reopened them no longer glowing “Sorry, I got carried away. I need to go I think, I’m not exactly nice to be around when this happens.”

 

I didn’t get to say anything before he stormed out of my room and closed the door. I wanted to go after him, of course I couldn’t but I still went to the door. The handle was very hot. I couldn’t even open the door. 

 

Tears came out, I wanted him to stay, I actually had a good time. I had forgotten about his mother when talking to him. Him leaving like that even made it more attractive, he cared enough of me to protect me from him. I wanted to get to know his spirit too.

 

I couldn't bear being alone tonight. I called Sophie.

 

Thursday Morning

Bern, GFIEN secret headquarter

'I can't believe you're taking the Burgener family to see Faraday. And told them.' Bärnerbär exclaimed in his authoritative german. 

 

«They were worried, I thought they should know. And it prevents them from hiring someone to find her, or maybe she'd end up contacting them. They might then find out what we did, and not be happy about it.. Imagine the PR nightmare if the media learned we shipped a mutant minor abroad without the knowledge let alone consent of the parents.» Naïade replied in her french, she had prepared this conversation, and knew how to argue for her case, which arguments could work on the bear and which would not. «I saw a potential issue and acted to diffuse it.»

 

'They know now, no need to take them to it. Hax’s son is in Whateley, he could transmit information.'

 

«The son of Hax being in Whateley is a large reason it's not an issue. If she put him there, she understands Whateley is a special place. It is neutral ground. She would not dare go after Shannon there. She would not break the trust everyone has in the academy.»

 

'You know what I think of the American little school experiment, they make a lot of mistakes in how they deal with their criminals there.» Bärnerbär exclaimed. «I'm still not convinced sending Faraday there wasn't a mistake. We'd have a better grasp on her at the Fachschule.'

 

«They don't have the same resources. Whateley is the best place for her.» Naïade said. She was an alumni of the academy, unlike her interlocutor who had never set foot on the continent. «And by being the one who reunites Shannon with her family I will help her see were not a heartless federal agency.»

 

Saturday morning

The CAGE 

Breakfast, Sophie had brought croissants to eat. They were extremely good. I took a sip of my black tea with forest berries. “Did you plan anything for the weekend? As most people are away.” I asked my friend.

 

“No, I'll see where the wind carries me”. It was Thanksgiving weekend. Of course neither of us could have taken the plane to visit our home. Sophie still had lapses in her control and a plane may not react well to a sudden lack of gravity.

 

“Well hopefully not too far, with no weight it can carry you quite a way.”

 

As often, when I tried to be silly like that she ignored me and continued deadpan “How about you?”

 

I thought for a bit, “I need to finish my filter simulations, and while it's running and optimizing I'll then switch to working on the board design. If I'm not too disturbed.”

 

“Expecting something?”

 

“Mrs Bardue warned me I'm getting a visit today so I should wear something else other than my pajamas.”

 

“So that's why you’re exceptionally dressed up. Good, means I didn't go get stuff for you at the shop for nothing.” Sophie replied. “Any idea who?”

 

“She didn't say. I expect another expert of some kind to come to check my electrosensitivity.” I said a little exasperated. So far they hadn't made much progress on figuring it out. 

 

We finished eating and decided to do a zero G study session. It took Sophie energy to restrain her power so with Tanya's help I'd set up my room so she could unleash it here too without any issue. Unless I'm doing something special, everything is held by simple velcro. Usually I just have to gather loose paper from the desk and we're ready.

 

I grabbed my clipboard, she grabbed the book she had to read and we started to float. It's always fantastic to feel my weight disappear. To no longer be bounded by gravity. No up, no down. My now long copper hair spreads around freely. It was thanks to such moments, especially given the great company, that my cage disappeared.

 

-----

 

The door was knocked on. I was floating and didn’t want to come down just now. So I just yelled, “Door’s open. If you’re clear of electronics just come in.”

 

The door opened, my mom was the one to actually open the door, I could not believe it. Behind her my dad, and brother. I dropped my clipboard and gestured to Sophie to let me back down.

 

“Shanon!” my mother called out. It felt so right. I’d just got back to the ground, and immediately rushed to them, I grabbed my mother in a firm tight hug. I was crying. “Ouch, tu m'écrases.” I let go of her.

 

“Désolée, je suis tellement heureuse de vous voir tous.” I went to give a lighter hug to my dad, and then my brother, I tried not to hurt them. I then realized who had brought them. Standing behind them was Naïade, the heroine that got me out of Göldi chalet. I hadn’t seen her since. And I just realized she was blue. My comments to Laura felt even more silly now. 

 

«Please come in everyone. There’s a lot of perturbation outside today.»  I had actually gone further out than I had since coming in, to hug my brother, and I was regretting it slightly.

 

«I can’t believe it’s truly you!» My mother said once the door was closed. «You still have the same eyes.» 

 

«They are green now!» I countered, as my eyes used to be gray. 

 

«You know what I mean.» She replied.

 

«You do still look a decent amount like the old you. Even if you’re a girl now.» My brother said before staring at Sophie who was just floating in the corner. «Oh, I shouldn’t say that, right.»

 

«She knows, and doesn’t speak a lot of french.» I replied. I gestured to her, and told her “Come here, say hello”. 

 

She pulled out her power, came to us and shyly said, “Bonjour”

 

«This is Zero G.» I used her code name given that Naïade was here. «She's my friend. Whateley would be empty without her.» I smiled at her. “And this is my parents, my brother. And this is Naïade.”

 

Sophie gave me a questioning look. So I explained, “She's a superhero. She, how to say..”

 

“Was there to save Faraday.” Naïade finished for me.

 

That didn't wipe the look of surprise on Sophie’s face. “I'll explain later.”

 

“Of course.” She gave me a hug, “I'm gonna let you catch up with your family. See you later.” She left, I was a bit disappointed but at the same time my parents didn't speak English so it would probably be simpler.

 

 My dad put his hand on my shoulder. «When we came in you were flying. I don't know if I can handle you in the sky.» He was afraid of heights.

 

«I'm not capable of flying by myself. Zero G can remove gravity around her.» I sighed. «And I've not seen the sky since I left Switzerland.»

 

«So you're really just stuck in this room.» My mother asked, and I nodded. 

 

I was then asked to explain how I lived in the CAGE and all the changes due to my mutation. My mother wasn’t a fan of the way I named my living quarters, and found it a bit grim.

 

-----

 

My parents went to discuss with Mrs. Bardue, and Naïade went to talk to people she knew here. So I was left alone with my brother. I think that was the purpose of their absence.

 

«The guys at the station were so worried about you crevette» Crevette, shrimp literally was the nickname his friend at the fire fighter station gave to me. I used to be scrawny, so it stuck.

 

«Just tell them I'll now beat them all in arm wrestle.» I wryly said. «Except Michel.»

 

«So you're not just a base level exemplar, you really are stronger?»

 

«Yeah I'm not sure of the exact numbers, they didn't want to bring all the equipment her for the best precision, I'm still close to baseline levels, just olympian and not some my stature»

 

«So now that mom and dad are gone you can tell me what's happening between you and Zero G.» My brother suddenly said, changing the subject.

 

«I don't know what you mean.» I was confused.

 

«I don't know, the looks you gave each other. There's something.” He said.

 

«Since when are you an expert in this.»

 

«You underestimate my gaydar. I’ve hung out with enough lesbians in my days to see the signs better than them.» He said, in a tone I knew wasn’t very serious.

 

«I had no idea Sophie would ever be interested in me.» I didn’t know what to do with this. «I think I like her,»

 

«Then go for it!» My brother interrupted. «I waited too long with Christopher, by the time I took my courage he was already with someone else. You don't have to rush into it, do much. But talk with her about it.»

 

«It's just there's someone else.»

 

«Where were all these twists in your dating life when I was around to advise you. And witness it.»

 

«I don't think I had the confidence in myself before. And everything feels faster now. I think faster, but my emotions, they are kinda on overdrive.»

 

«It's called growing up. But I must say even despite all that happened. All that is still going on. You seem happy.»

 

«It's because you are all here. The CAGE weighs on me, especially when I'm alone. I'm still seeing a psychiatrist.» 

 

«Of course. But I was dreading meeting you completely down. So that someone else. How is she, or he?»

 

«He. I don't know him as much as Sophie. But he's really cute. And when he was here he was very sweet.»

 

«I sense a but coming.»

 

«I don't know how to say. I kinda promised to Bärnerbär not say anything to anyone.»

 

«Wait , what does he have to do with that?» I could see my brother getting a bit stressed.

 

«I've probably said too much. His family is linked to the group that kidnapped me.»

 

«And they just let him here.»

 

«Yes it's just his family and the school is as much founded by super villains as super heroes. It's neutral.» 

 

«That's weird.» He then stopped talking for a while as if processing the new data. «I think you should be careful with that boy.»

 

«I am.» I replied very firmly.

 

«And avoid getting too close.»

 

«Not possible.» I gave the same firmness which made my brother give me a dark look.

 

«Shannon, I'm serious.»

 

I really felt the need to assert myself. So I invoked authority «So was Bärnerbär» I of course put my hand in front of my mouth, I had said too much. 

 

Ludovic looked exasperated, «don’t tell me they gave you a mission» he made the air quote on that last word.

 

«Please don't tell anyone. Not even mom and dad. Or Naïade.» 

 

«How do you expect me to just not say anything? This is clearly a bad idea. You always were terrible at keeping secrets. How do you expect to deal with that one?”

 

«I've managed to trick Göldi into thinking I was just working for them while actually attracting the GFIEN.» I felt like he still wasn't convinced, so I added «And I've been very careful. I mostly exchange with him by text. So I can listen back to what I say.»

 

He looked to the roof, «You’re gonna do it no matter what I do.»

 

«I’ll do it no matter what anyone does. If Bärnerbär told me tomorrow to abort, I'd still do it. I want to know him, and I want to be able to move past what happened and get back to Göldi. And anyway I'm sure it will be fine.»

 

«Please stay safe.» My brother pleaded.

 

«I’ll be fine!»

 

Saturday afternoon

The CAGE, sitting on the bed.

My parents had left again, to a meeting in Doyle where they would be able to ask questions on my health, once again I was alone with Ludovic, I was probably boring him with details about how I’d set up ANODE.

 

«So yeah this PC is quite powerful. I’ve not yet tried it for gaming, as I haven’t figured out a display to it yet. But I know it will blow my old one out of the water. You can get my old one, or sell it. I won’t need it»

 

«You know video games aren’t really my thing. Don’t really have time for them.»

 

«I probably won’t either going forward, but still I wonder if it changed, wonder how good I am at redstone now.»

 

Someone knocked on the door, “Hoi Sha” Beat called out from the other side.

 

«Oh that’s him, please be nice.» I told my brother before yelling “Hey! Come in but I’m not alone!”

 

He did just that and gave my brother a nod. “So hey, this is Ludo my brother, he’s visiting. And this is Beat”

 

“Oh hello, so you’re the brother. I heard my power makes Sha think about you.” Beat said.

 

My brother didn’t respond verbally. He just smiled and clicked his finger, ending up with a small flame from his right thumb he held up. This is what ended him with the name Briquet, and was the whole extent of his pyrokinesis. Did make him popular with smokers though.

 

Beat also didn’t respond verbally, he nodded before holding his left fist in front of him. And closed his eyes for about 5s. It felt quite long without anything happening. Suddenly, woosh! His whole fist burst into flames. The wave of heat coming to me caught me by surprise. The bright middle of his flame went up a good 10cm above his fist, the last trail of fire a good 35cm. It was white hot in the middle, with an eerie red on the outer parts.

 

“Wouah!” I exclaimed. I might have had a stupid grin on my face as it was so much grander than I expected. He was on the other side of the room and I barely could stand the heat. 

 

“Takes quite a time to light up.” My brother contered. “Flame does look nicely hot, but supernatural too. It’s magic right”

 

“Yeah they are the physical manifestation of my spirit. Wrath so bright it melts steel. Takes a bit to control it.” He opened his hand dispelling the flame. “And they are tied to our emotions, it’s hard to call it when calm like right now.”

 

“That was wild.” I said, I felt a shiver of excitement thinking about it. “Have you ever considered blacksmithing with your fists?” That made both of them laugh

 

“You’re not able to focus on one subject at all.” Ludo called me out.

 

“Non.” I said sticking my tongue out to him immediately after.

 

“It’s part of her charm.” Beat replied, to which I blushed.

 

My brother stood up to go next to Beat. “I’ve got to talk to you. You see, my sister has been through a lot.”

 

“I understand that.” Füürlifuuscht replied. I just tried to disappear. I didn’t know what my brother was going to do. But I also respected him enough to not interrupt.

 

“It’s more than you probably understand. But it’s for her to explain. She’s an idiot frankly, doesn’t think things through and is impulsive.” There might be a time where interrupting would be the thing to do. “But she cares about you. Hearing things like a wrathful spirit.” He sighed, “I’m worried for her, as her big brother. I will let her make her own choices, but if I hear you’ve hurt her, I will fly back and beat your ass, and my ass is fireproof.”

 

Monday Morning

The lonely CAGE

 

My family left early yesterday afternoon. They couldn’t stay much longer. I wouldn’t be cut off from them completely though, I had given them my MARCONI, after updating its firmware for stronger encryption, and making packets harder to track. I was now building a V2 for here. Not having one was annoying and made me feel more stuck. Even though I was just tapping into the normal intercom for class this morning, the MARCONI spent most of its time in the charging dock in front of the CAGE.

 

 “Incoming internal call. Doyle Medical Center'' ANODE voice announced, in the middle of my class. 

 

“ANODE put class on hold, take call” I ordered. “allo!”

 

“Good morning Faraday. This is Doctor Cho” That was my usual doctor for care here. She usually comes by directly as she’s assigned to us Thornies. I wonder why she calls from Doyles. “I was looking over your blood analysis over the last few days. Your blood copper levels are rising.”

 

“Is that bad?” I asked.

 

“Not at current levels, we will just need to adjust your treatment. But it would indicate you are near the end of building your initial antenna network, have you noticed a change on that front.”

 

I looked at my arms one last time before answering. The copper tracks were dense, and seemed to not have moved in 3 days on the parts I could see here. “Yeah they seem to have stopped growing.”

 

“Good, we were waiting on this given the rapid rate you initially showed. We can now look further into their exact effect on you, to improve your accommodations. Professor Lucas had a few suggestions”

 

“Oh, let me guess, you’ll want to characterize my antennas to know what I’m most sensitive to.”

 

“This would be the first step indeed. We’d like to start today. Be ready at 10am”

 

-----

 

Three people entered the CAGE. Dr Cho was expected, I wasn’t exactly surprised Professor Lucas was here. But I didn't know the third person.

 

The last person presented herself. “Call me Tatiana. I'm with the power labs, here to observe. I'm also an empath and psychic, if you allow me I'll monitor you to ensure you are safe during the procedure.”

 

“We want to prevent you from blacking out like during your arrival.” Dr. Cho said, “but we will have to expose you to emissions. It will help us to understand your needs for the best accommodations.”

 

“Yes I understand. I want to understand more too. How are you gonna do it.”

 

“I brought this.” Professor Lucas said, placing an apparatus on the table. It was a flat oval shape, with two dials on top. Betweens them was a dot matrix monochrome LCD, 6 piano keys at the bottom. On the right a large telescopic antenna extends in the air. It was rustic and bit space age in the materials, raw aluminum. It looked like a weird fancy old school radio. It made me slightly uncomfortable. 

 

“This is a standard test devise in my lab. It's simply an arbitrary signal emitter, I use it to grade students' projects on their resistance to interference.” He explained, “this will be a first. I've never used it to measure a student.”

 

“That’s usually our job,” Tatiana interjected, “We’ll need you to just pay attention to your electromagnetic sense, and how much it hurts you while we go through the range of frequencies we test today.”

 

“What frequencies will that be?” I asked.

 

“We start at 10Hz, no real need to go lower.” Professor Lucas said.

 

“And stop when it gets too much.” Dr. Cho finished.

 

“And power?” I asked, I was getting slightly worried, I wanted the information, but they admitted it would hurt me.

 

“I’m setting up 15dBm to start with.” my electronics professor replied.

 

“And for us who aren’t enrolled in your class, what does that compare to?” Tatiana asked, I wonder if she truly didn’t know it because they hadn’t talked about it yet, which was worrisome. Or if it was just for my benefit if I didn’t know and would be too scared to ask.

 

“About 32mW, it’s the equivalent to a standard laptop’s wifi.” He replied

 

“Is it going to be okay for you?” Dr Cho asked me.

 

“Including the fact I'll be listening to your feelings” Tatiana added 

 

“Yes. To all” I was anxious to get started. The sooner we did it the sooner I'd have my answers and the sooner the pain would stop. Anticipating the pain right now felt worse.

 

“You're quite stressed.” Tatiana noted, “Try to relax.”

 

I didn't reply, I just looked at the professor tweedling the knobs of his device. It was already on, but I didn't yet feel it. Could I have overestimated my sensitivity? Maybe I will be able to get some electronics in my cage, maybe even just get out. 

 

“I am ready to start whenever you are ready” Professor Lucas exclaimed.

 

“Allons-y” I replied.

 

He pressed the leftmost piano button, and as soon as that happened I felt a pulsing sensation on my back, down my arms, and my legs too. A warm pressure down the back side of my body, going up then down twenty times a second. It highlighted a specific set of my tracks in my mind, for the most part it was on the largest down my spine, which split in a reverse Y just above my ass to go down the back of each leg. At my shoulders it split in a T to ride the outside facing side of my arms. With it, a dull pain along where it went through, and at the base of my head, felt like it was where my spine met the brain.  Pain like this was manageable, not pleasant but I could deal with it. Some hope. 

 

“Ouais je peux croire que c'est dix Hertz” I replied, so focused on the sensation I used the wrong language. 

 

The  professor let out a whistle, “Fascinating you're able to sense a relatively faint signal”

 

“It's still painful though.” I asked to move things along, we then moved to twenty Hertz. As the frequency swept I felt the power move slightly, but mostly I felt it happen more often, we kept going up in frequency, the pain was still there. The one at the back of my head was rising, it was slowly overpowering the pain I felt on the tracks. I was surprised how high I managed to count the hertz. They finally merged with each other into an indistinguishable feeling at around 780 Hz. But even then each frequency felt slightly different, and as it got higher started to involve other tracks more prominently.

 

Once we reached one megahertz, the pain started to rise quite sharply. It became harder to focus on the pattern of each frequency.  Tatiana pushed for us to stop a few times if I wanted to stop. I decided to continue. I could still handle it, even if pain was at an 8 out 10 pretty much all the time.

 

We reached two gigahertz and it was getting worse and worse. 

 

“Going to 2.4 GHz” Professor Lucas exclaimed, as soon as he touched the dial to move there the pain reached new highs. My hands were burning, my head was pounding. So much pain I couldn’t move anymore. My muscles tensed.

 

“Cut your devise” Tatiana yelled. 

 

I dropped to the ground as the signal dropped.

 

-----

 

Floating. It was a great way to relax. The pain was finally going away. 

 

“How are you feeling now?” Dr. Cho asked. She had given me something for the pain and was monitoring how I was handling the recovery. 

 

“Better. I think I’ll be ready tomorrow to try again.” 

 

“You want to do it again?!” Sophie exclaimed. “Why would you do it again?”

 

“We didn't do the whole spectrum!”

 

Dr Cho had explained to Sophie why they were testing me and why it would be needed to continue. Given the pain stayed after there were chances that the length of exposure was a significant factor, so the test will be in a few steps. But I'd get a full day's rest between tests. Mostly to not have the headache impact my classwork so much. We'd move the session to the end of the day too.

 

The doctor then left. I was left with only Sophie in the CAGE. I couldn’t help but think about what Ludo had said. And the fact she was here, caring for me. It meant a lot. It was lunch break so of course she’d usually come. She had brought us tortillas, they were great as they don’t make a lot of crumbs so we can eat them floating around. The CAGE was always less lonely with Sophie.

 

Monday after classes

The CAGE

 

“Put me back up!” Beat yelled. 

 

“You see, without the reference of earth gravity there's actually no such thing as up and down.” Sophie teased him with a very rehearsed sentence, taking up the nasal voice of a typical nerd. 

 

We were all floating away in the cage, Beat for the first time, and given he wasn't very adept at it we managed to flip him.

 

“Great Sha impression” Beat laughed, which ouch, but at least reassured me he wasn't too mad.

 

“I don't speak like that do I !?” I said,

 

“No not at all, you just forget to demodulate the harmonics of the signal between your mouth and your brain.” Sophie replied in the same voice. Beat let out a large laught we kept exchanging very friendly teasing and laugh. Given they didn’t know each other yet other than what I told them, I got the worst of it.

 

When we finished this, Beat took a serious look. “There was something I wanted to ask you, Sha.” He looked at Sophie, “And given you two are so close, and you might help, I’ll say it now. My mother needs help.” 

 

Can human blood freeze while still in the body? Because I was pretty sure this just happened to me. I looked at Sophie for reassurance. Of course she didn’t know any of the details. So she didn’t pick up on my feelings just yet.

 

“Your, your mother” I babbled. “The mage.”

 

“You okay Sha?” Beat paused to ask.

 

“We’ve not talked about it yet.” Sophie covered for me “But I don’t think she likes magic very much.”

 

“I’m seeing that.” He gave me a safe look, “It’s not a magic issue. But it’s complicated. And well, it’s a lot of trust to put in you. Her work is not exactly how to say. It’s not something I can talk about with baselines.”

 

“I’d imagine for a mage” Sophie said.

 

“Well anyway she asked me to find someone. For a project. A devisor or gadgeteer.”

 

Hax was looking for someone to take over what I worked at the chalet. 

 

“I wondered if you knew someone I could ask.” Beat finished.

 

“Let me think.” I said, Naïade had given me a crash course of covert interrogations technique, and this was one she had given me. Tell people I need to think about something to think about it and estimate the best plan of action. It might be basic, but she said I was starting from the very start and with a malus due to my tendencies to not think before talking.

 

I saw three options:  give the name of someone I greatly dislike that may still be able to do it, and then make sure they get caught. Give the name of someone I knew would fail because it’s outside of their area, which would be an issue for Göldi. Or do it myself, I’d have the control of what I did. But I risk exposing myself. I didn’t really know the other students in the tech track well enough yet to know who would be a great choice for plan A or B, certainly I didn't dislike any yet for the A. I was stuck with plan C.

 

“If you need to know what it’s about. It’s about encryption.” 

 

“Do you really need to think about that?” Sophie said, seeing I was still thinking  “Why ask for someone else, Sha’s great at this stuff.”

 

“Really? I don’t understand anything about this.”

 

I took a deep breath and answered Beat “Yeah I can do it, I just hope you’re not asking me to rob a bank.”

 

Tuesday very early morning

The bed

I bolted awake, so much pain, a 15MHz signal was yelling on my skin. It was overwhelmingly much more powerful than the tests we did. My eyes were dripping from the tears on both sides of my head. I wanted to yell but couldn’t voice anything, I couldn't move.

 

Whatever was emitting this must be alerting every radio operators in the area. If it managed to pierce the CAGE with such intensity. But who would do this at 03:34, why would they do this. It lasted 72s before stopping. Hopefully that was due to swift actions from an outside source. Or maybe it was an accident and they stopped it to avoid problems.

 

I was left in bed panting and crying. I hope that’s the end of this. Tomorrow morning I’ll have to discuss improving the shielding. And maybe seek an avatar of wrath to whomever was so noisy.

 

It was too early and there was too much residual pain to do it just now. I should try to sleep again.

 

But slumber was hard to find, my mind was racing. This was the first time I felt such a massive emission, what if they're more frequent than I thought in this weird campus. The CAGE quality was already high, the shielding excellent. Anything to improve it further would have diminishing returns on the effort vs result graph.

 

Pain came back, the same signal came back. It was horrible again, the pain from earlier didn't disappear yet, so now it was even worse. 

 

This time it took 76s to finish, and it had started at 04:34. Exactly one hour appart, this was very suspicious. I now was convinced this was deliberate. Who and why?

 

First thought was someone trying to deliberately hurt me, so maybe it was a directional dish aimed at the CAGE, explaining the penetration.

 

But with such a short on duty cycle it didn’t make sense for that. Neither did the signal. It wasn't static, there was clearly some modulation on it.

 

I had an idea what it could be. I didn't like this possibility much more than the antenna aimed at me. I waited a few minutes in bed, for my senses to clear. 

 

Once I felt sufficiently alert, I whistled, and felt the faint signal responding at the right frequencies. Someone had bugged my room.

 

There was only one group I could think of who would do it. But just after Beat asked me to work for them. GFIEN had reassured me that I did the right thing and I would be in a good position to counter them.

 

And Beat himself would never do this. I needed to make peace with myself on the fact he will likely betray me one day. But he knew better than an electronic bug in the CAGE. 

 

Maybe he didn't, maybe there's someone else from Göldi here who is acting independently from Beat.  Anyway the bug won't stay long. I'll wait a bit more to really clear my head, but I'll take it out before the next hourly broadcast.

 

I stumbled out of bed, my head was still a bit spinny and hurting. I started whistling. It's a good thing the CAGE is both underground and well isolated acoustically too, I didn't have to feel too bad whistling in the dorm at this very early hour.

 

I could feel the bug react, but it was hard to pinpoint. The 3kHz of my whistle made a signal that has such a large wavelength it was hard to pinpoint, it mostly involves my low frequency antenna along the back. 

 

Still it was what I had to deal with, I extended my arms in a T shape. Whistled. Then I turned ninety degrees and whistled again. I don't know exactly how that helped me but it gave me the impression that it was in the direction of the desk. 

 

Once next to it a quick whistle told me I was indeed closer. I scanned my desk visually, it didn't seem to have been touched. I waved my hands above it. There's something. Here, but once again I don't know exactly where it is.

 

I checked underneath the desk. I found it quite easily, it was sticking out. A metallic gray box. There was a very faint but present signal from it, likely just running, probably just recording right now, not emitting.

 

The box was closed, with an antenna sticking from one side. It was quite obvious I had to get through the screws to get it open and turn it off.

 

I opened it and immediately disconnected the battery.

 

The circuit looked simple, it was just a board that seemed hastily retrofitted into this box. And there was a signature on the silk screen, I don't know who it is but I now need to find someone who puts an insect on their electronics circuits.

 

The obvious thing to do would be a report to the school staff. But they might ask me to hand in the bug, and I want to figure out where it's from myself.

 

I will talk to Naïade about it though. This was a moment I was thankful for time zones.

 

-----

 

I let out a large yawn. Between staying late last night working and all the action this night I was running on only three hours of sleep. I still had so much to catch up, and so much I wanted to do, a nap before classes wasn't really possible right now.

 

Sophie would be going to pick up our breakfast soon. I think I'll need her to ask her for something else too.

 

“ANODE send following message to Sophie. Hey could you get me a cup of coffee for breakfast. And my usual tea, it's just an extra”

 

She arrived soon after with bags of deliciousness. The croissants from Crystal Hall were only beaten by the ones I had on holiday in France, but maybe it's because of the memories attached with being outside with my family.

 

“So why the coffee?” She asked 

 

“Terrible night.” I said letting out a large yawn again. I then recounted my misadventures with a loud spying circuit.

 

“You're oddly calm about it.” She commented.

 

“Yeah, at first I thought it was likely the people after me.” Sophie only knew now I had been kidnapped and they were probably looking for me, not anything about them. “But Naïade convinced me it was likely just the Masterminds or the Spy Kids checking things out. Possibly because she visited. Now it's just a fun challenge puzzle.”

 

“I’ve got a feeling you'll drag me into this…”

 

“Yes exactly, you learn quickly.” I said with a wide grin. “I'll need you to pick up a repeater that's just outside the CAGE. And plug my own network of EMF sniffers in a few places around campus.  Operation CopperSpider will soon be ready to deploy.”

 

Sophie gave me an exasperated look. “You named it. How long have you waited for this.”

 

“Well the initial plans date from my cross Atlantic trip, and were just filed under unnamed networking sniffer project. I didn't need it until this night and so decided to finish them.”

 

We continued eating breakfast. I hadn't dared trying the coffee yet. Finished everything else, so I grabbed the to-go mug.

 

The aroma was pleasant, it somehow reminded me of home, when my father used his french press in the morning, and the smell would get in the whole kitchen.

 

I dipped my lips in the warm liquid. I was hit with an earthy taste, somewhat bitter but counterbalanced by an interesting sourness. It was elegant in the mouth. Reminded me of going to the swimming pool as a kid, and getting an ice coffee ice cream. 

 

“So you're really drinking this black? How do you do it?” Sophie asked in disbelief.

 

“Yeah it's good. I think I'll get it more often” I replied with a grin.

 

Wednesday early morning (but still reasonable)

The CAGE 

Today was a stressful day. Only one short week after learning of Beat and Hax relationship, I was going to confront my kidnapper. I don't think I was ready. But my superheroes mentors wanted me to move fast. Beat had asked me to talk to his mother soon too. 

 

Hax initially wanted things to happen on a Skype call. I managed to negotiate for a more secure end to end service. Without camera, and without magic as this was discussed when I brought forth security issues.

 

I was able to keep some control. Beat won't be there with me either. He was just the intermediate.

 

6:29 one minute left before the meeting. I was frantically looking over my notes gathered from the briefing I had yesterday.

 

And ANODE connected me automatically. Hax was online. 

 

«Hello. You can call me F» I initiated.

 

«I know you are Faraday.»

 

My heart skipped a beat. Her voice was the same cold voice. Did she know everything? 

 

«Are you still there?» she asked, I took too long to answer.

 

«Yes. But let's not use our official codenames.»

 

«This is an encrypted conversation, no?»

 

I was shocked. She was a criminal, she should know such things. 

 

«It's not a question of if this stream could leak but when.» I cited Tell, he had told me this about all networked information. I'm not sure this applied here. «I don't want my name associated with yours.» Technical truths presented in the  wrong situations were easier than lies.

 

----

 

This felt more like what I was taught a job interview was than some kind of criminal conspiracy. 

 

She had been mostly asking about my class load, my specialties in gadgeteering. It was weird and stressful. And then there were the questions of allegiance. To which I answered that my main goal was my own safety.

 

«Okay I'll send you some documents. This work is very urgent but going fast lead in to some of my associates getting in trouble.» I heard what sounded genuine sadness, probably about Monstre Du Valais being now in jail. 

 

«I have many other projects at the moment.» I repeated to try and lower her expectations.

 

«Yes. Do not jeopardize your studies. Whateley is quite  flexible, you could present some of the work you do for us in that context. I must go. I will be contacting you next.» She went offline 

 

I didn't have any means to contact her, and it seemed like it was done deliberately. I took 5 minutes to gather my spirits, the emotions I had repressed during the discussion came flooding. “ANODE stop recording and transmit upstream.” I said before starting to cry, at least they won't hear that.

 

Wednesday afternoon

Somewhere in an attic, Dietikon

 

She turned off her computer. Screens tended to disturb her flow. She lit up her candle set, and turned the light off. In the candlelight she infused one last lone bigger candle with magic, and finished the ritual by transfering flame from another candle.

 

Far away, someone would be getting this signal. And if the coast was clear she would know immediately.

 

The flame turned a bright purple, so she started the second part of the ritual. She grabbed the purple flamed candle, poured it in a tin white wine glass, that was inscribed with many delicate runes, and on a seal a messenger pigeon.

 

‘I made contact with the new Key.’ She said, her voice was carried by the ritual to a man, not very far away, but unreachable otherwise.

 

‘Good. This is quicker than I expected your plan to go.’ The man replied. 

 

‘This will still take time.’

 

‘Time we do not have, Hax’

 

‘I tried your way. We almost lost everything, and lost good people. I will not rush. This new Key, she seems very careful.’

 

‘I still don't like the idea of asking a foreigner, it's a Swiss issue.’

 

‘Good thing I found a Swiss student then’ Hax said, as the ritual collapsed, someone must have disturbed it.

 

Thursday after classes

The CAGE’s desk

One big mistake when one put a listening device in a Gadgeteer's bedroom, forgetting to destroy the internal connection to the debug port.

 

Thanks to this, I've been able to dump the ROM. I haven't yet understood everything, but I was able to isolate the networking code. I realized this was a mesh protocol that works with acknowledgement. The payload part was encrypted, but there was an address field in the header. And I found in the non volatile storage an address my bug was sending to.

 

With the sniffers Sophie had placed in the campus, I had been able to pinpoint quite accurately the place they were operating from, there was a lot of chatter on that network. 

 

The MARCONI V2 was now waiting in place thanks to Sophie who had been very helpful acting as my muscles and feet on campus. I don't know how to thank her.

 

Now I wait. CopperSpider is ready to strike.

 

A short time later

Somewhere in the Whateley tunnels

The small girl was surprised to arrive at the usual meeting place and see a device waiting before the door. There was a note with it. 

 

[Hey Cyber Swarm. Hope this gift find you well.]

 

The note wasn't signed. Mouse knew she'd have to call her leader.

 

He arrived just a couple of minutes later. The device hadn't made any sign of activity till now suddenly let out a very organic “Bonjour Cyber Swarm.”

 

“Who is this?” The black boy asked. “How did you find us?”

 

“You did leave me a calling card.” The device replied with a certain smugness, and an unrecognizable European accent, neither French, nor German somewhere in between. “This is Faraday and I think we should talk. Let's take this inside.”

 

“Why should I listen to you?”

 

“I very nearly could have died from your stunt in my room. If my housemother learned about it, and now that it's tracked to you, she'd get you expelled before you understand anything.” Faraday sounded rehearsed here. “She doesn't have to know anything.” 

The CAGE 

 

They were bringing the MARCONI inside their secret room. Everything was working perfectly. 

 

Except the printer was constantly printing out their faces. I had programmed to send me the face of any new person entering the camera field of view. I had been too confident when I made this the default behavior without any rapid disable method.

 

“How do you mean almost died?” Cyber Swarm asked.

 

“You put an emitter in my room, way outside of the allocated power for that frequency.”

 

“And you still blew it up within three hours” he said, and now it all made sense. They thought I was like previous inhabitants of the CAGE.

 

“The CAGE is to protect me from outside interference, not the outside from me. I just found your bug.”

 

“Oh” He explained in a sudden understanding, probably of multiple parts if he's not too hard of reasoning. “I am sorry it was never about trying to hurt you.” He continued, “We had to know why a superhero from the ENEBG would come in person to see you.”

 

“I can understand that.” This was the exact reason Naïade had predicted the Spy Kids would be interested in me. I must say it was great news they were indeed the ones to do it.

“GFIEN, the french name by the way, was just a routine visit. Given our mutual relationship. I help them, and they help me.”

 

“You're telling me you're helping the agency that took down a large Syndicate network in their country simply from their intel gathering.” He sounded like he was geeking out.

 

“Yes, but I thought you all might help me too, maybe we should join our forces, it will be mutually beneficial.”

 

Friday Morning during breakfast 

The CAGE's table

“So what's with the photos of me on the ground?” Sophie asked.

 

“When Cyber Swarm gave you back my MARCONI, it liked your face. Started spitting it out”

 

“And you kept them around because?”

 

“Thought they improved the décor!” I said with a wide grin, fully expecting a roll off the eyes from Sophie. Instead she seemed to have taken it as a compliment and was blushing a bit. 

 

“I euhm don't know how to say it.” I started, “but merci! Thank you!” 

 

“What for?” she said.

 

“Everything. You've been such a friend to me! Without you I think I'd still be crying myself to sleep every night.”

 

“You did that?”

 

“On the way over, and the first few nights.” I said, grabbing her hand. “You showed me the way out. I can't imagine Whateley without you.” I was completely overwhelmed by the emotions. I wanted to hold her. I was looking intensely in her eyes, something I rarely do, and whispered despite myself. “I think I love you.”

 

Sophie blushed and smiled. But she also inclined her head 45°, a universal sign of confusion. “I think I do too. But” oh please no buts I thought between her word, “I thought you were falling for Füürlifuuscht”

 

“I am I.. with him everything so complex. With you so much simpler.” I babled.

 

“Is it because you used to be a guy?” She asked, it stung a little she thought of me as a guy, even in the past. “And you're not yet used to liking guys.”

 

“I’m not used to fall for anyone. This… intensity. It's all new.” I was shaking from the emotions. 

 

Sophie spontaneously sprung from her seat to jump in my arms. She weighed nothing right now, but I was still feeling my full weight. It was such a tender moment.

 

“Oh. It will be okay. I'm not used to this either. I had crushes but I never hoped they would be met with similar feelings.” Sophie said. 

 

We just stayed like that for a couple minutes, not talking. Just absorbing the moment. 

 

But we had a breakfast to finish before going to class, so we had to stop the cuddles and eat. I grabbed my now usual coffee. 

 

“Oh by the way, yesterday the docs made a discovery about my powers.” I started saying, we had kept measuring my response to multiple signals. “It would seem like a part of the pain does come from a lack of habituation. So being exposed more often would likely be better.”

 

“That kinda sounds like good news.”

 

I grinned excitedly “It's fantastic news! But it also means I need to work on a project fast.”

 

“Again?”

 

“The work never stops. I'll probably need the whole weekend, without interruptions. Sorry after what happened this morning I want to take the time with you. But this is so important.” I affirmed.

 

“Okay, but I'm bringing you food and coffee. If I don't, you will forget to eat.” Sophie asserted firmly.

 

I paused for a bit before admitting, “That's a likely possibility.”

 

Monday morning, December 4th  

Metal working labs

The gadgeteer wondered who had left things on his bench. Nobody was supposed to use it. There was a binder, and an electronics gizmo, with a very crude casing he thought. And he wasn't a fan of seeing the obvious two wide angle cameras.

 

He flipped open the binder to see if there was a name. It was full of mechanical designs, the title box was filled with information about each design, but lacked a name field. 

 

The first page was of the whole assembly. A power suit, clearly for a girl. And it was hand drawn, so no CAD was used. This wasn't the first time someone tried to commission him for a half backed powersuit project.

 

He still flipped through the next few pages. There seemed to not be any place made for the mechanism. This wasn't like the other powersuits. It lacked the power part. Seemed to be purely about protection, just a regular armor suit.

 

He flipped to the hand assembly. There it was quite interesting. Whoever designed this used interesting techniques so a continuous foil ran through the articulations. This was a very hermetic design. He was more convinced this project might be interesting.

 

“Salut Smith. I see you're already checking my project.” The gadget on the bench said.

“I’d love if you could help me build it. It's time I got out of the CAGE”

 

Faraday will come back in Free Electron 

Read 861 times Last modified on Saturday, 11 May 2024 09:44

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